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Do we need weed in our cities? Krakow is an example!

Wiktor Bochenek
01 of March '23

Weeds do not have it easy in Poland. In the case of agriculture, they are exterminated with chemicals, while in urban gardens they are immediately cut down. Maybe it's worthwhile in the face of crises, where greenery expenditures may fall, to look at them as a new ally?

The weed garden designed by the Land-Arch studio received an honorable mention in the competition of the Stanislaw Witkiewicz Małopolski Voivodeship Award. The main motif of the establishment is weeds, which we are used to exterminate so much in our urban landscape, which is refined to the limit.

Element małej architektury

element of the park's small architecture

© Land-Arch

We talk about the weed garden, weeds as an ally of man and the possibility of their implementation in cities with Małgorzata Tujko, a landscape architect from the Land-Arch studio.

Wiktor Bochenek: The weed garden received an honorable mention in the Stanislaw Witkiewicz Award. Did you expect to be reminded of this realization two years after implementation?

Malgorzata Tujko: Immediately after the area was made available to users, we received a great deal of complimentary feedback about this pocket park. We are very pleased that news about the project is coming back after a long time after the opening. Thanks to the distinction, probably more people will learn about it, since the location is not overexposed.

sercem założenia stała się całkowicie uschnięta topola czarna

The heart of the establishment became a completely withered black poplar tree

© Land-Arch

What is the most important thing to pay attention to in the weed garden.

Margaret: The site is a typical example of "fourth nature," a wild grove squeezed between office spaces, modern apartment buildings and a corporate gas station. Thanks to its unregulated legal status, the area, forgotten for years and fenced off with multiple fences, has survived as a wild enclave in the city center.

The project aimed to draw attention to the nature that, develops spontaneously, in an uncontrolled manner, without human interference in abandoned, even the most damaged areas. Nature that does not require investment, and gives the fauna greater benefits than larger areas of tended greenery. A space that in such a small area gives users the impression of communing with nature.

In the design assumptions, in addition to introducing the silhouettes of companion-synanthropic plants, we wanted to show the biodiversity of the place. The main emphasis we placed on minimizing the cutting of the existing stand of trees and the display of "witness trees", in the area covered by the study could be distinguished several very valuable specimens of trees. Of which the dominant specimen is a lofty witness to history, a monumental, completely withered black poplar (Latin Populus nigra), losing branches with girths of adult trees located in the nearby open area. The isolation of the site prior to design work and the vibrant life there led us to decide to interfere as little as possible with the existing world.

istotnym elementem założenia było zmniejszenie ingerencji w przestrzeń, także przez dostosowanie małej architektury

An important element of the premise was to reduce interference with the space, including by adapting small architecture

© Land-Arch

Wiktor: How was the small architecture in the park laid out?

Margaret: A characteristic feature of the site is the large differences in the height of the terrain, which largely influenced the way the communication system was designed in order to minimize collision with the existing stand of trees. In the fragments where the designed pedestrian route clearly approaches the existing trees or the terrain is characterized by pronounced height differences, overhanging paths made of steel bridge plates were introduced. Thanks to the use of point foundations, collision with the root system of existing trees was reduced.

Communication within the park was based on a single path having the form of a loop, to which accesses were designed. The closed communication circuit allowed to make the space compositionally coherent and to create a functional system ensuring free movement within the entire park. Inside the designed traffic loop there is, among others, an old poplar tree and a children's playground. The designed paths meander between existing trees - the so-called walk among the trees. Directly along the designed pedestrian routes and at the intersections of the paths, small squares have been designated. They create spaces within which elements of small architecture have been placed. Designed micro interiors give the impression of privacy.

Komunikację w obrębie parku oparto na jednej ścieżce mającej formę pętli

Communication within the park was based on a single path having the form of a loop.

© Land-Arch

Victor: What do we define as a weed?

Margaret: There is no universal and unambiguous definition of weeds. The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) provides a definition in 1989, defining weeds as any plant that is undesirable, or interferes with human activities or interests[1]. Citing a definition from

Weed - an undesirable plant that adversely affects the cultivation of useful plants. It inhibits their growth as a result of taking soilmineralnutrients, moisture and light. It is a negative term[2].

Victor: Why did it fall on weeds?

Margaret: Since the project is aimed at introducing users there, we decided to emphasize the aspect of nature education. The site, which has not been tended for years, abounds in so-called companion plants - weeds that we all know, but few can name them, not to mention learning about their properties, whether flavorful or medicinal.

In the places where the plants occur, labels have been introduced to introduce the silhouettes of selected species, describing their morphologies and cultural or medicinal use.

ogród służy również jako plac zabaw

The garden also serves as a playground

© Land-Arch

Victor: Should we appreciate these plants more. In collective thinking, however, they get away with being the enemy?

Margaret: As I mentioned earlier, there is no clear definition. A weed is an unwanted plant, but this is subjective, for example, cornflowers or poppies in cereal crops. From the farmer's point of view it is a nuisance, to more romantic souls seeing these plants accompanying cultivated fields, an idyllic landscape and the memory of bouquets picked in summer come to mind.

Common weed combinations also include, in addition to the aforementioned cornflower poppies, the verdure or even chamomile or camomile. Each of these is a plant with medicinal values, firmly established in folklore. Very often, they are also edible plants, for example, the Common Agrimony.

ogród chwastowy nie wymaga dużych ingerencji

The weed garden does not require much interference

© Land-Arch

Victor: What advantages do gardens that take weeds into account have over tidy ones?

Margaret: Weed gardens do not require labor. Their aesthetics do not go hand in hand with the image of an orderly garden. There are scientific studies claiming that the quality of life of residents depends in an undefined way on biodiversity. The easiest and cheapest way to increase biodiversity is to reduce maintenance.

There is increasing talk of reducing the intensity of maintenance so as not to disrupt the existing use of greenery, but to favor biodiversity. Actually, this direction is taking place in almost all public green spaces in cities, for which sustainability aspects are important. Spontaneous greenery gives users the impression of spending time in nature. This was the main idea behind the project.

Victor: Will we live to see more weed beds?

Margaret: I hope so! Here I would like to warmly thank the investor: The Board of Urban Greenery and the author of the Civic Budget for the trust that was placed in us for this project.

Wiktor: Thank you for the interview!

park jest otwarty przez cały rok

The park is open all year round

© Land-Arch

interviewedWiktor Bochenek

[1] Zimdahl R. L. 2007 Fundamentals of Weed Science. Academic Press, Burlington, San Diego, London, p. 666.


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